If ever there was a film that typifies the last 10 years, it’s The Big Short. It’s filmmaking in its quickest form. And much credit goes to director Adam McKay, who has made a film so rapid fire that it even makes Vince Vaughn stop to catch his breath. It mirrors what goes on in today’s multi-tasking society. But also what Wall Street has been doing for decades.
Connecting three stories without much crossover, The Big Short deals with what led to the financial crash of 2008 and the radical few who had the wisdom and the gall to see it coming and act upon it.
It starts with Christian Bales’ character, Dr. Michael Burry, a Silicon Valley hedge fund manager who spots an instability in the United States housing market, predicting that the market will collapse in a few years. Much to his investors’ dismay, he goes out and bets against the housing market–something that apparently you just don’t do–by purchasing $500 million in credit default swaps. Many others catch wind of this, but only several are keen enough to spot the method to Burry’s madness.
The film tries and succeeds at making a dry topic appeal to the audience it wants. There’s a lot of technical jargon, but McKay makes it easy for us to stay in the loop by doing unusual things like have “Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explain it to you”. These celebrities explaining things happens a few times throughout the film for our enjoyment. McKay has such an unorthodox way of filmmaking, but it works here. Characters break the fourth wall about a dozen times, and he enjoys flooding the screen with intercut stills. It’s actually very highbrow, but never makes us realize it.
It has a mockumentary feel to it at times, which explains why Steve Carell makes sense here. He plays Mark Baum, a Wall Street hedge fund manager who gets approached by Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) to invest in this whole credit default swap thing.
A third story revolves around these two young investors who happen to get wind of Gosling’s plan. They contact Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), their financial advisor, who helps back the idea.
Each sub story is just as entertaining as the others, so you’re never sitting there waiting for so-and-so to come back on screen. You never think about the fact that they’re gone, but realize you missed them when they come back.
It’s a powerful film, even though it might not seem like it is. It never strays from its point just to get a laugh. Each laugh feels deserved and the humor organic. And with a killer soundtrack (especially if you were a teenager during those years), it’s definitely one of the best films of the year.